Concluding NLC’s Delegation to Europe: Day 5 [Hamburg, Germany]

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NLC delegates tour IBA

After a full week of traveling, touring, meetings, and presentations we reach the end of NLC’s International Sustainability Exchange. We began our day with a meeting at the Ministry of Urban Development and Environment where delegates engaged with leading authorities on efforts that the City of Hamburg is taking to reduce carbon emissions while at the same time attracting and growing business opportunities within the renewable energy sector.

Delegates learned about an innovative “renewable energy cluster,” developed and led by the city, to support the growth of renewable technologies – most notably wind and solar energy – and the regional economy.  By utilizing existing assets, including their expansive port and strengths in project development, maritime engineering, finance, and other “know-how” services, Hamburg is positioning itself as a leader in the renewable energy industry.

Following this discussion the delegates returned to Town Hall for a meeting with the First Mayor Olaf Scholz. We were honored to have this opportunity to meet with Mayor Scholz, who due to the political structure of the country is also President of the Senate, or Governor of the State of Hamburg. Mayor Scholz met privately with the delegation and discussed at length issues including the intersections of environmental sustainability, industry, immigration and education.

As a major shipping and industrial area Hamburg’s designation as the European Green Capital is especially impressive and stems from public and political commitments in response to industrial pollution and harmful conditions in the ‘70s-80s. Today Hamburg faces challenges of an expanding immigrant population and need for social sustainability including equitable access to education and ensuring there remains a skilled workforce to meet the demands of expanding technologically-based industry.

The day concluded with a tour of sites within the International Building Exhibition (IBA), scheduled to open in 2013. Delegates received an overview of IBA’s community development activities by CEO Uli Hellwig who explained how the exhibition is providing an opportunity to demonstrate innovative approaches to a changing environmental landscape such as housing that can respond to sea-level rise. The group then visited “Energy Mountain,” a former contaminated landfill now the site of wind and solar energy production and the “Energy Bunker,” a former WWII bunker being converted into a renewable energy generator and storage facility.

As we reach the conclusion of this Sustainability Best Practice Exchange in many ways we find ourselves still very much at the beginning – of opportunities for informative dialogue, expanded international collaboration, and lasting relationships with all those we had the honor of meeting along the way. Throughout this past week delegates and our hosts discussed components of sustainability – environment, economy, and society – as the “three P’s”: people, planet, and profit. In looking back over the lessons that we gathered from this experience, three additional “P’s” emerge: Patience, Passion, and Partnership. As mentioned in the first blog post in this series, sustainability can be extremely complex and often very challenging. With the right combination of perseverance, political leadership, comprehensive strategy, and broad-stakeholder support and collaboration we have seen that sustainability is possible – at home and abroad.

We sincerely thank the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm and U.S. Consulate in Hamburg for this opportunity and all those sustainability leaders we had the great pleasure of meeting and exchanging information with in Stockholm, Malmo and Hamburg.

To continue to follow the work of NLC’s Sustainability Program and learn more about what cities are doing across the country to advance sustainability please visit